Don't get me wrong, I am not against heavy cream. Sometimes I just HAVE to have it. Whether it's to make homemade caramel or to top off an intense dark chocolate pudding, cream is just... sigh. In fact, one of the most unforgettable foodie moments A and I shared is when we went to this brunch place called Vine and Bean Cafe, ordered one of the best waffles I've ever tasted, and asked for another serving... Not a second serving of waffles, but another helping of whipped cream to eat with the rest of our waffles. Seriously. We enjoyed waffles with whipped cream like it was nobody's business. I wouldn't have been surprised if the server asked "You want a waffle with that?" while we were spooning whipped cream out of the little cup. It was bordering on shameless, I know... but I hope they take that as a compliment.
Anyway, before I go on into a foodie daydream about Vine and Bean's "vanilla bean buttermilk waffles topped with warm peach rhubarb compote, *honeyed whip cream*, and striped with house-made caramel sauce" (isn't that enough to make you want to go out into the freezing cold and visit the cafe RIGHT NOW?), I did set out to share a recipe. So why no cream in this one? Well, I could have used cream, but I didn't have any... and I was in the mood for soup and getting
So here goes...
"Creamy" Tomato Bisque
half a medium onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
a few fennel stalks, chopped (I know that the onion-celery-carrot trio is the "holy trinity" soup base, but I was out of carrots... and I had leftover stalks from a fennel bulb I ate a few days ago)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups diced or pureed tomatoes (when tomatoes are not in season, I prefer the Pomi brand of packaged tomatoes as they have BPA-free packaging)
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup (maybe more?) of ground almonds or almond meal (you can buy this at Trader Joe's... or you can grind whole almonds in a food processor. Just happened to have the almond meal which I used for a pie crust)
salt, pepper, lots of basil
Start with a heavy-bottomed soup pot.
Saute the onion, celery, and fennel in some olive oil. Add a pinch of salt to help soften the vegetables. Once they have softened, throw in the minced garlic. I like to wait until the onion, celery and carrots (or in this case, the fennel) are soft before adding in the garlic, because garlic tends to burn faster and get bitter - not good for soup!
Add the tomatoes, broth (or water), and basil (save a little bit for later!). Bring it to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Enjoy the smells of your kitchen, and pretend you're in a Tuscan villa...
Sorry. Back to the soup...
Add the almond meal, then take the soup off the heat. Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until smooth. The almond meal adds a heartiness and creaminess to the soup, without the need for cream. Add more broth if needed or if you would like a thinner consistency. Check and adjust for seasoning, then add a little more chopped basil before serving. Serve with some crusty artisan bread with some really good, fruity extra virgin olive oil (this unfiltered kind is my favorite) on the side for bread dipping.